There’s nothing like the beginning of the school year to offer perspective, or at least to make you stop and take note of where life stands. This is a particularly poignant early August at the Holbert household as we have one child beginning first grade and two moving ever closer to that glorious day when I can start selling blood and unnecessary organs to pay for college.
My step-daughter, Vivi, had a milestone Tuesday, hitting the ripe old age of 6 and beginning first grade on the same day. Not entirely coincidentally, her dog, Sadie, also celebrated a birthday that same day with a nice bowl of dry dog food. Vivi may have moved Sadie’s birthday a few days to sync up with her own, but Sadie’s cool with that.
Meanwhile Ulysses and Ursula start their junior and sophomore years, respectively, at McGill next week, and it’s hard not to think about how quickly these next few years will spin by and they’ll be going to college somewhere. Then, of course, they’ll both marry foreign students and move to countries I didn’t know existed and I’ll only see them once every five years.
I might be getting ahead of myself. But that’s what this time of year does to me.
And I’m not alone. Beth put Vivi to bed Monday night then drove to Publix for a last-minute purchase of a giant unicorn-shaped balloon as a birthday morning surprise. But after buying said giant unicorn-shaped balloon, she also spent a few minutes crying in the parking lot while thinking about her baby starting “real” school and turning 6 all at once. It’s pretty overwhelming.
We have both ends of the spectrum covered. My son is now driving all over town, has a job and we sit around watching profanity-laced movies together like old friends. We even listen to some of the same music, and he’s responsible for getting me about 90 percent of my pro sports information. He starts most sports conversations with “You probably don’t know who this guy is….”
Ursula is playing varsity volleyball this season and that is only slightly less time consuming than joining a cult. There are practices every morning before and after school, tournaments every weekend and then travel leagues when the school season is over. It’s good because that leaves very little time to smoke crack or shoplift. (Do kids still smoke crack? I feel like that was a really ’80s reference.)
Oddly, I probably remember almost as much about my own first grade experience as I do my high school years. (C. Everett Koop said crack caused memory loss. Boy, was he right!)
Much of what concerned me during the first several elementary grades was being able to run fast. It played a big role in setting the pecking order among the boys. The faster you were, the cooler you were. We even had Field Days where they handed out ribbons for first, second and third place, essentially codifying that pecking order and leaving the non-winners humiliated, which was probably a good life lesson for them.
I didn’t come into first grade with an understanding of the importance of running fast, though. So foolishly on that first day I wore cowboy boots that made me feel cool and especially tough. They were a style statement I suppose. They were made out of something that looked like leather but clearly wasn’t. Perhaps linoleum. While out on the playground during recess walking around in my boots, a few boys ran up behind me and the ring leader “frogged” me in the back for no apparent reason.
Frogging, for the uninitiated, is when you punch someone with your middle knuckle sticking out like a triangle. It extra hurts.
I writhed around in pain and probably cried because I was in first grade and even tough, cowboy-boot-wearing hombres cry when they get frogged in first grade. I remember making a sad effort to run after the gang, but my boots were all slippery and I was in pain from the frogging, so the kids just laughed and ran away.
The next day I was wearing whatever bargain-basement black sneakers my mother bought and the tables were turned. I chased that kid down and frogged him right back. When they tried to catch me, I was too fast. The shoes made all the difference.
I’m sure at some point that year I learned to read a little, but mostly first grade was about learning to use my amazing running speed for the good of humankind. There was one attempt to use it to impress a girl but I slipped and fell on my back in a mud puddle and she laughed. Should’ve gone with the boots that day. Not everyone was into blazing speed.
It would be nice if things stayed that simple through high school, but of course they don’t. Cars, dating, jobs, studying, clothes and ACTs make things much more complicated. I will say at least everyone wears uniforms these days, because picking out the right thing to wear was tough in the ’80s. And I’m not afraid to admit I owned a rather large number of sleeveless shirts that looked fabulous with my awesome mullet. The gun show was always in town!
I also owned three of those ridiculous-looking sock ties I’ve seen trying to make a comeback in recent years. Imagine the choices — sock tie versus sleeveless Panama Jack T-shirt. Brutal.
Actually I feel a little sorry for this generation of kids because they don’t have enough truly idiotic fashions to wax nostalgic about when they’re older. Thank God denim has made such a big comeback in the past year. The high-waisted, ’80s-looking “mom jorts” girls are wearing now give me hope for today’s youth that they too will have some particularly embarrassing photos to look back upon later in life.
While it’s nice to reminisce, mostly at this time of year I try to take stock of where the kids are in life. We’re fortunate all three seem happy, well-adjusted and are able to run fast.
These days as school starts feel like the calm before the storm — before the homework and juggling schedules and making sure people are where they’re supposed to be dominate life until Christmas. I know I don’t have too many more years with all three of them, which makes me sad, but also excited to watch them all move forward in life.
And it always reminds me time runs far faster than I ever thought it would.
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